E is for Effortless - Echo Fly Rods
In his quest for a replacement river fly rod, author, guide and regular tackle reviewer Terry Lawton came across the Echo brand which is not well known in the UK but perhaps deserves to be!
Sometime ago I decided that it was time that I bought myself a new fly rod. There is nothing wrong with my regular river rod – a St Croix Avid 8’ 6’ #4 that I built myself 10 years ago surprisingly – but I felt that it was time for something new. A lot has happened to the design and construction of fly rods over the last decade. I wanted a rod with a faster action and top-end performance but not top-end costs. I started by Googling 8’ #4 travel rods to see what come up.
I soon found one or two quite interesting four-piece rods, for example on the LLBean website. Although I bought my St Croix blank untried, I felt that this time I wanted to be able to test a rod before buying it so this mitigated against buying a rod from LL Bean. Temple Fork Outfitters was another make that was of interest but they do not make a fast-action rod under 9’. When I tried to get some more information on the LL Bean rod, I found a “dude” on an American forum who had been fishing in Montana in a drift boat and was struggling. His guide handed him an Echo 2 rod which, quite simply, transformed his day. This sounded interesting and his comments were supported by others who either owned or had fished Echo rods. So I went off to the Echo website at http://www.rajeffsports.com/ where I discovered the Echo Carbon and Echo 2 Freshwater ranges. These rods are designed by Tim Rajeff, brother of multi-casting-championship-winner Steve and also a casting champion in his own right too.
Tim's extensive knowledge of fly rod design and performance stems from his early childhood days at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club in San Francisco, where he became a young and successful competition caster. Tim won a gold medal in the World Casting Games in single-hand distance as well as winning the national overall fly accuracy and distance championship. Tim first began designing rods in 1980 and was one of the first people to use and adapt graphite fly rods in competition casting. He has run Rajeff Sports since 2001, following a number of years as head of the engineering department and fly brand manager for a major US rod manufacturer.
I contacted Rajeff Sports who put me in contact with European distributor Baltic Fly Fisher, in Germany. After an exchange of e-mails and a phone call from Stuart Longhurst, who runs Baltic Fly Fisher, I decided to try a Carbon 8’ #4, a Carbon 8’ 6” #4, which has what is described as a medium fast + action, and an Echo 2 8’ #4. When I unpacked the rods I was impressed by the build and finish quality. They all come in smart cordura-covered rod tubes (unfortunately with rod bags rather than divided tubes) and restrained trim and graphics. The handles all seemed to be on the small side but when I checked them against some other rods, the only difference was that they were all slightly thinner in diameter. A benefit for anyone with a small hand and nothing significant for those with bigger hands. The Carbon rods had good quality cork handles with the forward end made of cork composite. The Echo 2 has what is described as a premium cork handle but there was evidence of some filler. I liked the look of the Carbon’s aluminium reel seat better than the more traditional wood-insert seat of the Echo 2.
I fished and cast all the rods with the same weight forward fly line for consistency of line and reel.
The first rod that I tried was the #4 8' 6" Carbon Medium Fast+. My instant reaction was that casting with it was, quite simply, effortless. My line flew through the single leg snake guides – in fact sometimes a little too far – and accuracy was all that one could ask for. For a rod with an action described as medium fast+, it was very forgiving to cast with and there was plenty of feel as the rod loaded. It is very well damped with minimum vibration. I found it was great to cast at the short and longer ranges that are typical of fishing small to medium size rivers. The rod’s all-round competence would not put anyone at a serious disadvantage fishing even quite big rivers.
The next rod up was the medium fast 8’ #4. This rod felt very similar to cast but seemed to have slightly less authority. It was that little bit lighter and seemed to me to be very slightly less powerful.
Echo Carbon rods have matte dark brown blanks, smart anodised aluminium reel seats, single stripping guide and single-leg snake rings, very discrete alignment dots, colour-coded rod bag and tube. There is a “fish hero” whipping 20 inches from the butt-end. The 8' #4 Carbon weighs approximately 90g and the 8' 6" approximately 92g. Retail price is €179.50.
The Echo 2 is an interesting and unusual rod as it has two top sections. One tip - labelled "A" for accuracy - is designed to be a little softer and make the rod action a little faster. The other tip is stiffer and is labelled "D" to indicate that it increases distance. I wonder how many anglers would make use of both tips, or is one tip going to end-up as a spare? As the retail price of this rod is €289.50, you pay quite a lot for the extra tip section. I still do not really understand the philosophy behind this rod. I fished the “distance” tip first and then the “accuracy” tip. Both tips lived up to their designations.
The distance tip roll cast and mended the line easily and well. It certainly had the ability to cast that extra distance when required and I found that – when casting under over-hanging trees for example – I could stand that bit further back and punch a tighter loop under the branches with less worry about getting hung-up. The extra power of the stiffer tip meant that the rod handled any breeze very well.
The “accuracy” tip will be a delight to the nymph fisher who knows the need for spot-on placing of a nymph when casting to those fish which are not prepared to move to intercept an artificial. While it would seem that the “accuracy” tip does do what it says and gives better precision, I couldn’t help wondering if I was concentrating a little more on casting more accurately and so hitting the target more often. There was also less breeze which may have had an effect.
Echo 2 Freshwater rods feature the two top sections for variable action, red wine colored gloss blank, Titanium nitride coated stripping guide and hard chrome single foot snake guides, nickel silver colored winding check, stabilized maple reel seat insert, a premium grade cork handle, colour-coded rod bag and cordura-covered rod tube. There is also a “fish hero” whipping but at 18 inches from the butt-end. The Echo 2 8' 0" #4 weighs approximately 85g. Retail price is €289.50.
All these rods are first class “fishing” rods in that they have the necessary power to cast well and accurately but they are still forgiving when it come to playing fish and protecting light tippets. Build quality and finish are as good as they come and all-in-all these rods are real value for money. Putting these rods in order of preference was not that easy although I knew which rod I liked the least. For me the nicest rod to cast was the Echo 2 with the “A” tip, very marginally ahead of medium fast+ Carbon, then the Echo 2 “D” tip and bringing-up the rear was the 8’ Carbon. Although this was my least-favourite rod there is nothing wrong with it and I wouldn’t want my opinion to stop someone from buying what is a very nice 8’ #4 rod.
In the end I bought the medium fast+ Carbon because it seemed to me to be every bit as competent and pleasurable to cast and fish as the Echo 2 but at a saving of over €100.
Echo rods come with a guarantee of repair or replacement of damaged rods for the lifetime of the original owner. There is a €30 handling charge. When a replacement rod is shipped, the carrier will collect the damaged or broken rod when delivering the replacement.
For more images please see the gallery attached to this review.
Further information is available from Stuart Longhurst at http://www.balticflyfisher.com/
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